MFRD Engineer says he owes life to Marion Co. detective killed in helicopter crash


A firefighter says his life was saved by fallen detective Matt Blansett. WSMV's Rebecca Cardenas reports.
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 7:46 PM CDT
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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WSMV) - A Murfreesboro Fire Rescue Department Engineer said he owes his life to Matt Blansett, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office detective who died Tuesday in a helicopter crash.

MFRD Engineer Benjamin Honeycutt was in a near-fatal crash 23 years ago and said he was saved by Blansett when he thought the worst would happen. “Medically, I’m not supposed to be here,” Honeycutt said.

At that time, 17-year-old Honeycutt was involved in a wreck on a South Pittsburg Mountain on December 16, 1999. Blansett and his father, Donald, who volunteered with the South Pittsburg Volunteer Fire Department at the time, responded to the scene.

Honeycutt said if it weren't for the heroic actions of the late detective, he would not be alive.
Honeycutt said if it weren't for the heroic actions of the late detective, he would not be alive.(MPD)

“They responded up to the mountain and got me extricated and down the mountain and airlifted to Erlanger in Chattanooga,” Honeycutt said. “I survived because of them.”

Honeycutt said his injuries were so severe that he didn’t know if he would live. He added that the doctors even told his parents to be prepared because they thought he would not survive.

“I had a torn aorta, lacerated liver, left lung collapse, stomach collapse, two fractured ribs, and bruises,” Honeycutt said. “I also had a bleeding kidney, lost parts of his spleen, spinal cord damage, brain bleed, and lost 12-inches of colon. I died three times on the operating table.”

Honeycutt said if it weren't for the heroic actions of the late detective, he would not be alive.
Honeycutt said if it weren't for the heroic actions of the late detective, he would not be alive.(MPD)

The crash in 1999 was not the two men’s final encounter; Honeycutt said he was involved in a second crash on the same mountain in April 2001, and Blansett came to the rescue.

Knowing that one of the men who helped save his life lost his in a helicopter crash along with Tennessee Highway Patrol Sergeant Tim Russell was hard for Honeycutt to believe. “You just stand there in shock, and you do not really know what to say or do,” Honeycutt said. “But when it starts to absorb, it starts to break your heart.”

On Tuesday, Blansett and Tennessee Highway Patrol Sergeant Lee Russell were killed in a helicopter crash in a wooded area on Aetna Mountain near Whiteside, TN.

Honeycutt and fellow MFRD and MPD officers stood on the South Church Street bridge over I-24 Wednesday in salute as law enforcement officers accompanied Blansett’s body from Nashville to East Tennessee.

“I thought it would be good for us to show our respect and support for his family,” Honeycutt said. “He was just one of those people that you were a better person for even knowing him.”

Honeycutt plans to attend his former South Pittsburg High School friend’s funeral. “He was a good soul, and he exemplified devotion and honor to a selfless service, but he did it because he cared and loved people even if he didn’t know who they were,” Honeycutt said. “He was a great guy, and he’s going to be missed.”

Blansett is survived by his wife and two sons.

Honeycutt is the son of former MFRD Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal Ken Honeycutt.